Eddie Hogan, Free Time, and How It All Began

CFT MastheadEnded 2014 with the sad news of the passing of Eddie Hogan down in Charleston; Eddie was the publisher and editor of an entertainment newspaper called Charleston’s Free Time until health problems caused him to cease publication in the late 00’s. An unselfish supporter of local musicians and the music scene around Charleston, Eddie and the Free Time paper gave the budding scene somewhere to focus itself back in 1990 when he began as a bi-monthly free paper.

Hogan managed the Record Bar in Northwoods Mall, and I was working at the other Record Bar location, in Citadel Mall, so I knew him in passing already when he started talking about the paper he was going to be putting out. I’m not sure if I was in the very first issue or not, but I’m pretty sure I contributed to every one after that for about four years. It was the first place I was published after graduation from the University of South Carolina in 1989 with a mostly useless English degree; I was working full time at the record store and part-time as a DJ for the local classic rock station. The remainder of my young single life was taken up with seeing live music around town whenever I could, at bars like The Windjammer, Cumberlands, Cafe 99, and the new Music Farm that opened during that time frame. People stare in wonder when I tell them I saw Phish on East Bay Street at the original Music Farm in 1990; or when I tell the story of interviewing a 14 year old Derek Trucks before his gig at the Farm around that same time.

The first things I wrote for Eddie and the Free Time paper were simple record reviews, but a need soon surfaced for coverage of the live scene I was already immersed in. “The Beat” was born, a column that covered local music news and spotlighted a few good shows happening during the weeks each issue was on the street. It was a pretty wide-ranging selection of bands and music included, as my tastes then were just as eclectic as they are now (check the archives on this blog for a few examples of the column in its early form). beat logo

Soon, we began doing bigger stories when touring acts came through town; the first really big one I can remember that I did was when Atlanta band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ came through around the time their Fly My Courageous album was blowing up; I did a phone interview with bandleader Kevn Kinney, then the day of the show we did an in-store with the band at Manifest Discs & Tapes (where I’d moved over to from Record Bar). I got Kevn to autograph a copy of the printed interview from the paper and later framed it, I still have that framed, autographed interview–In a rare editing error, Eddie spelled Kinney’s first name with the ‘i’ in the headline. Kinney was gracious enough (or intoxicated enough, maybe) not to notice or at least say anything if he did notice at the time.drivin n cryin feature 1991

The processes we used back then were positively antique compared to the publishing world of today; I would write or type out my copy and hand deliver it to Eddie (or he’d stop by the store and pick it up), who then re-typed it into his publishing program on a Macintosh computer setup, print that out and do paste-up on a light table for the pages that would go to the printer. I wasn’t ever involved in that part of the paper but any time I was at the house that table and computer were in various stages of use.

Eddie was always looking for ways to support the local music scene, being a musician himself. Between the two of us and a few others involved, we organized the Charleston Music Showcase for several years in a row, bringing regional industry folks like my favorite management curmudgeon Dick Hodgin and others in for a panel discussion of various topics, followed by a night or two of live sets from handpicked local acts we liked. It was, I hope, educational and informative for all the bands and musicians–me, I just liked seeing all the live music, all at once.

Eddie’s favorite story about me and my time with the Free Time involved Hootie & The Blowfish, who back then were just getting to be a regionally popular band not too many months removed from their cover band days at USC. In one of my columns previewing a Hootie show that was probably at the Windjammer, I made the pronouncement in a review of their demo cassette that the band “was going to be huge”, something that a more experienced critic might not have gone out on a limb of hyperbole with. That was in 1991, and of course we all know what happened beginning around four years later. Eddie was pretty proud of the fact that his paper had ‘called it’ earlier than anyone else. Years later in a Hootie exhibit in Columbia for some anniversary or commemoration of the band, there was a giant collage that featured show flyers and newspaper clippings from the band’s career; that column of mine with that prediction was included.

I left the Charleston scene and the Free Time ‘staff’ in 1993 when I moved to Columbia and got married, but Eddie’s influence and friendship didn’t end there. His sister-in-law Amy Whitaker, who had helped him start the Free Time in Charleston, was several years into publishing her own paper, the Columbia Free Times. When Eddie informed Amy I was moving up to Columbia she immediately asked if I’d be interested in doing similar work for her paper. I’ve now been writing for the Columbia Free Times for over 21 years–thanks again, Eddie.

Eddie and I kept in touch and he even mailed me the Charleston Free Time for a long time; when I noticed it getting a little slim on the local music coverage in the early 00’s I contacted Eddie and offered to resurrect “The Beat” from afar as a longer column in his now once-a-month publication. With the internet now a thing, I could easily scan club schedules and do a full-page rundown of upcoming concerts and significant club shows, and did just that for a while, enjoying being able to help out Eddie again, this many years removed from our beginnings in print together.

It has been years since I saw Eddie on a regular basis but any time I’d call it was like we could pick up wherever we left off the last time, talking about music that moved us, friends we both knew, or the latest band we’d seen. He was a friend to many, as the condolences that have been pouring in on social media this week have shown; I’m proud to give him the credit for kick-starting me and my own musical musings way back when. RIP Eddie Hogan, I’m sure you and Lowell George are in the middle of an awesome jam session right about now.

Cracked Rear View Turns 20, What Does That Mean?


Not much, really, would be the short answer, though at the time it was a pretty big deal around these parts. Columbia, South Carolina was not exactly a hotbed of popular music, or even a ‘hip scene’ like Athens, Georgia or the Triangle area in North Carolina. The anomaly that was Hootie & the Blowfish wasn’t even really much a part of the original music scene in Columbia, anyway, as their fan base came from years of playing the cover band bar circuit. One of the most fun cover bands of their time at USC, the guys covered everything from the Police, U2 and R.E.M. (lots and lots of R.E.M.), to Hank Williams, Jr. and obscure tunes from the likes of 54-40, The Rave-Ups, and The Replacements.

My own personal experience with the guys in Hootie comes mostly from that time, when as a USC freshman I spent many Friday nights at their gigs in Pappy’s, the local college burger joint and bar across the street from our collective dorms. Serving as a DJ at WUSC alongside Hootie guitarist Mark Bryan meant I heard the original versions of most of those ‘obscure’ tunes the band was covering. Mark, Darius, Soni, and Dean were as much music fans as they were musicians, and these early years hashing out others’ songs were invaluable experiences.

What folks who weren’t there for the pre-Cracked Rear View years don’t know or don’t realize is that the band worked hard for years in the same kinds of crappy college bars, even after they started playing more and more of their own original music. They were successful not just because they got lucky but because when it was their turn to be lucky they were ready to capitalize on that luck and translate it into a career.

Cracked Rear View, in hindsight, came along at just the right time and place in music business history. Grunge music, the raging genre of the time, imploded with the death of Kurt Cobain and I think the public was just ready for some sunnier-sounding material. “Hold My Hand” isn’t Dylan or the Beatles, but it certainly is easy to sing along with, as are “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be With You”, the other big hits from the album. The irony is that for the most part the album is full of fairly serious topics, from the flag protest “Drowning” to songs about deaths in the family, “Going Home” and “Not Even The Trees.” Don Gehman’s production kept everything sounding upbeat and positive, however, so the overall effect was still fairly uplifting especially compared to what was on the charts at the time. My personal favorites are two of the less-played tracks, “Time” and “Hannah Jane,” both feature good harmony singing on the choruses and catchy wordplay that’s not quite as trite as the big hits.

From a local standpoint the most important outcome was the proof that lightning could strike in Columbia; whether it would again didn’t matter as much as the fact that it had, once. A blessing and a curse at the same time, now every band wanted to be as successful as Hootie, and many of them thought they deserved to be even if they were wrong. Not for lack of trying, several acts attempted to follow in the band’s footsteps with varying degrees of success. Cravin Melon, Edwin McCain, Treadmill Trackstar, Jump Little Children, all of them had major deals for a while; none of them kept them for long (though McCain had some hits including a #1 single, “I’ll Be”).

There will never be another Hootie & the Blowfish, from Columbia or anywhere else, given the current upheavals in the music business; the band itself has said they are still interested in pursuing one last album together at some point. Given Rucker’s current hit country music career, that might not happen for a while, however. Until then, throw Cracked Rear View on for another spin, it’s held up well for its age.

Emily Hearn’s “Rooftop” Video, Featuring Bill Murray

Yep, THAT Bill Murray. The actor appears to be having a pretty good time goofing around in a new video for 20-year old Athens, Georgia singer-songwriter Emily Hearn‘s song “Rooftop”, shot on the streets and rooftops of Charleston, South Carolina. Why Charleston? Well, Hearn is managed by Hootie & the Blowfish’s Mark Bryan, who produced the song and video for her–he lives in the area. Check out the video below, and learn more about Hearn at her website, www.emilyhearn.com.

Darius Rucker’s “Comeback Song” Video Spotlights Charleston, SC

Still from video shoot courtesy Downtown Charleston Facebook page

The band Darius Rucker came to prominence fronting in the 90’s, Hootie and the Blowfish, was from Columbia, South Carolina and they were great ambassadors for their home base, both the city and the state, during their successful run on the pop charts. Rucker grew up in Charleston, however, and so the video for the new single “Comeback Song” was shot in his hometown, with lots of footage of Rucker walking around the historic district:
“Comeback Song” on CMT.com

The alley used extensively in the video is called Philadelphia Alley, for a historical connection to that Pennsylvania city, which assisted in reconstructing the street after a major fire destroyed much of the surrounding structures in the 1800s. The bricks under his feet may still look hundreds of years old but they were actually replaced and the alley restored again about five years ago. Here’s a tourist video with a nighttime shot of the same alley in Rucker’s video:

Rucker’s new album, Charleston SC 1966, is due out October 12th. As reported on ABC News’ site a few days ago, the title is a tribute to Radney Foster’s 1992 album Del Rio TX 1959, which had a big influence on Rucker wanting to someday do country music himself. Here’s a great clip of Foster’s “Just Call Me Lonesome” from that album:

Rucker will be returning to Columbia, South Carolina next month as one of the concerts at the State Fair, and his old band Hootie and the Blowfish are getting a big granite monument unveiled later this month in their old late night stomping grounds of Five Points. All four members are supposed to be there for the dedication of the monument and a number of Hootie-era bands are slated to play the event, surely a Hootie set will break out at some point during the festivities…